The San Antonio Spurs have hit a snag on the offensive end and now face a team that is beginning to thrive on defense when they finish a four-game road trip at the Boston Celtics on Monday. The Celtics have won four in a row while giving up an average of 90 points, forcing 19 turnovers in Saturday’s 96-90 win at Miami.
“Honestly it’s becoming our staple on the defensive end,” point guard Kyrie Irving told reporters. “It’s just not looking as pretty as we want it to on the offensive end. But defensively we can rely on that to get us out of some possessions whether we’re taking a bad shot or a shot going in and out or it’s a turnover at half-court or something, we’re all getting back because we understand how important those possessions are down the stretch and getting timely stops.” That mindset will present a challenge for a Spurs team that opened 4-0 before suffering back-to-back losses on the road trip while averaging 90.5 points. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and Pau Gasol added 17 but their teammates shot a collective 19-of-59 from the floor in Sunday’s 97-94 loss at Indiana. San Antonio has won 11 straight meetings since its last loss to the Celtics in 2011, and six of those have come at TD Garden.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN Southwest (San Antonio), NBCSN Boston
ABOUT THE SPURS (4-2): Star swingman Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) still has yet to play this season and the team has offered limited updates on his condition. Aldridge has led the team in scoring in all six games and Gasol is beginning to chip in a bit more, averaging 14 points on 68 percent shooting in three games since a one-point effort against Toronto in which he missed all six of his shots. Manu Ginobili is 1-for-15 from the field during the losing streak while fellow reserve Rudy Gay is 4-for-14.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (4-2): Irving has settled in nicely in Boston and provided a great example of how he can carry a team with a strong finish at Miami. “Just big possessions down the stretch (and) understanding you have to stay poised,” Irving told reporters after scoring nine of his 24 points in the final two-plus minutes. “It’s unwavering in those situations like that. Winning time - so it’s pretty simple.” Rookie Jayson Tatum chipped in 20 points and is averaging 15.2 points on 50.9 percent shooting along with 6.3 rebounds in his first six career games.
1. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is one win shy of tying Phil Jackson (1,155) for sixth on the NBA’s all-time list.
2. Celtics PG Terry Rozier shot 6-for-25 over the last three games.
3. Irving has scored at least 20 points in five of his first six contests.
PREDICTION: Celtics 99, Spurs 95